Matt Bruenig has written in many journals. He also has
a blog, where this post appeared. He analyzes a fairly
straightforward question: Can schools end poverty? The column is a
commentary on the “reformers” who say that we can’t end poverty
until we fix schools, or something to that effect. We have heard
the same statement from Michelle Rhee, Arne Duncan, Joel Klein,
Bill Gates, and others. Duncan says that even the President agrees.
Bruenig analyzes these three statements:

  1. Education is a way to end
  2. Education is the best
    to end poverty.
  3. Education
    is the only way to end

He starts his short analysis with
this statement: These are all false, but since number
three is the one Rhee and Duncan and the education reformer crowd
pushes, let’s start there. It is flatly not the case that to end
poverty you need to alter education. Americans should know this.
Starting from the 1960s, we
as a society cut outrageously high rates of elderly poverty by
. We did that by sending old people checks called
Social Security. We also know from international data that
low-poverty countries get that way through tax and transfer
schemes, not unlike Social Security (I, II).
If you are saying nothing but education will dramatically cut
poverty, when things other than education absolutely will and have,
you are an enemy of the poor. You are contributing to a discursive
world where people ignore the easiest, most proven ways to cut
If this is true, and I think it is, all the
energy and billions expended on school reforms that are totally
lacking in evidence–like VAM and merit pay and privatization of
public funds–is a handy distraction from meaningful ways to end